Arkham Asylum: 5 Years Later (Or Running Around In Purple Vents)

I have had the same top five video games for as long as I can remember. In no particular order it is always…

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

God of War

Resident Evil 4

From the list you can see what I like. I love a good puzzle solver mixed with good combat. It’s the thing that really makes me happy. All of those games really excel in the puzzle department, some fall short in the combat. But they are all games with great replay value with them as well. 

So when I looked at the list, the latest release was God of War. That was in 2005. It seems impossible to me that there isn’t a game in the last 9 years to take away from that top five list. The Last of Us came very close, Mass Effect, Uncharted. All were great games. These were all games that got me to play countless hours and made me excited to play games again.

The game that has skirted around the top five has been Batman: Arkham Asylum. When the game first came out it was an immediate buy for me. And after five years, I was wondering if the game still held up today, and if the replay value was there. So I fired it up again, and surprisingly, I rocked out to this game pretty quickly.

Still one of the prettiest games I've ever played...when not in Detective Mode.

Still one of the prettiest games I've ever played...when not in Detective Mode.

I beat the game in about 3 solid sittings, which was faster than I assumed I would, but when I decided about twenty five percent in to just play the story and not worry about getting every Riddler puzzle in the game, it moves very fast. Which I think was the most shocking part of the game. I did not realize how much of the game was reserved for side questing. They also lack something the second time around. So much of the game was figuring out the riddles and the hidden little gems, knowing the locations spoils the fun.

The game still has the same flaws it had five years ago, which should be something completely obvious. But after playing the sequel and prequel, it’s clear how much they cleaned up the fighting after Asylum. While the free flow fighting system was a groundbreaking experience five years ago, it had it’s massive flaws as well. Most notably was the inability to really string together long combos. As thugs get further and further away with each hit, you get stuck in moments where you can no longer string together your free flow. It’s a tad frustrating but in the end isn’t the worst thing in the world. What is more annoying is the amount of time you spend in Detective Mode. It’s a great system, and it’s actually ingenious in it’s way of taking something so simple in the Batman universe and making it a great core element of the game. My biggest issue is that the game is so beautiful and the art work so amazing, that you almost feel bad looking at this game in it’s orangey/purple view the entire time. I spend about 90% of the game in detective mode, which leaves very little time actually enjoy the art work that is being presented to you.

 

Vents: Always the way to go.

Vents: Always the way to go.

The other issue is that the game is easily linear. When I say this I mean that the puzzles have obvious answers, and that answer is for you to find a vent and crawl into it. The game really should be called Batman: Crawling Through Vents. There is this beautiful world of this a large and complicated island, and I spent most the game inside, crouched, in a vent, with an orange hue. 

Thats not to say that the game isn’t amazing. It really is a great game, and is so much fun. I think it’s biggest issue is that the sequels took such a great base and made it so much better. And that’s not an issue with this game. The invisible predator missions in the end are a lot easier after you’ve played Arkham City. But they have their place, and can be complicated when you get a little too cocky. The quick fire gadgets were more of a hindrance in the end then they ended up being. So they get abandoned pretty quickly. And the end boss fight is actually a tad of a drag. It’s more off a mass fight then it is a boss fight. In fact, I didn’t even get hit by the mega joker once. 

The thing that does separate this game from so many others is it’s amazing storytelling. There is such a lack of great stories in video games today. While I always enjoyed Mass Effect, it has created a genre of games where everything is the players choice, and while that is cool, I don’t want it every time I play a game. Sometimes I want a carefully constructed and well written story. That is another topic for another day (We will revisit this in another blog that will heavily rely on The Last of Us) because in the end, the story and the acting is perfectly done. The artwork and realism are highlights, and even with every complaint I can come up with, the core game elements are superior to most others you are going to play.

Arkham Asylum may not crack my top 5, but that’s a subjective list. It’s not a real list at all. It’s one person’s opinion. But what can’t be disputed is that this was not just a solid first step into Arkham City. Arkham Asylum was at it’s time a groundbreaking and perfect exploration into the world of Batman. For the first time you actually felt like The Dark Knight. The mix of styles from Batman: TAS to Grant Morrision’s Arkham Asylum graphic novel, and the little homages to Batman’s great history makes this not a nostalgia game; this game is a true groundbreaking game that changed how we evaluate not just super hero games, but all games in general.

It’s just not as good as Majora’s Mask…